First use of radiometric dating


Calculations involving radioactive isotopes are more formal but follow the same basic principle: If you know the half-life of the radioactive element and can measure how much of each isotope is present, you can figure out the age of the fossil, rock or other entity it comes from.

Many substances, however, both biological and chemical, conform to a different mechanism: In a given time period, half of the substance will disappear in a fixed time no matter how much is present to start with.

Such substances are said to have a The utility of this lies in being able to calculate with ease how much of a given element was present at the time it was formed based on how much is present at the time of measurement.

Say a second friend who is aware of this arrangement visits and notices that your carton of ice cream contains 70 raisins and 10 chocolate chips.

She declares, "I guess you went shopping about three days ago." How does she know this?

Sure, you can scour the Internet and learn rather quickly that the scientific consensus pins the age of of the planet at about 4.6 billion years.